Monday, July 7, 2008

The thing is....

It is the evening of July 7th, 2008. My year-long 'Dying Practice' begins tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow I wake up under the premise that I had gone to a doctor's appointment, perhaps, and had taken part in a conversation much like this one, which is, of course, fictitious;

"Hello Doctor" (Worried look on my face)

"Hello... I received your lab reports, and have gone over your charts. There are some levels that I am concerned with, but perhaps with proper medication and treatment..."

"Um... Doctor?"

"... ... ... Yes?"

"Is this bad? Should I be worried?"

"Well now... 'Bad' is a very strong word... I would prefer to say..."

"Um... Doctor?"

"... "

"How sick *am* I, exactly... in terms that I can understand... please?"

".. .. .. It's not an exact science... but, in my opinion, you are very ill."

"In your experience, how long do people who are as Ill as I am survive.. generally?"

"I don't know.. as I say... these things don't follow a specific course... but, with proper medical treatment, we may be able to..."

"How long?"


"Doctor... how long do I have? .. I understand that it isn't a guarantee... and that you can't be held down to a date.... but, how long... please??"

"Perhaps a year... perhaps less."

"... ... ... ... a... YEAR?!!"

"... perhaps less... I would say a year, give or take."

"... ... ... ... A YEAR?!!"

"... more or less a year... yes... I'm sorry...."


"There is no known treatment. We can administer medication to control the pain.. to make you as comfortable as possible.... towards the end...."

"... wow... a year..... it doesn't really seem all that long..... what do I do now, doctor??"

"... go home... think things over.... put your affairs in order.... I'm very sorry.... "

"There isn't ANYTHING that you can do??!!"

"No. There isn't anything at all that medical science can do."

".... ... a year?"

"a year."

".. .. .. .. .. .. .......... thank you, doctor.... I... ah.... ..... .. thank you."

"I am very sorry. Have my secretary set up an appointment for sometime next week. We will discuss treatment options, pain management, etc. In the meantime, why don't you go home to your family.... if you need anything, you may call my emergency number at any time."

"thanks doctor. Goodbye."


The thing is this... this scenario is made up... it hasn't happened; at least, not to me... (at least not yet.) However, this scene plays itself out many times each day to someone... and the inevitable truth is that one day, I will have only a year left. I may very well have only a year (or less) left as I sit here writing this... The difference is that nobody has given me a number to focus on.

Naturally I expect (and hope) to have more than a year.. much more!! But, we must all die. And how we practice is how we perform. So... I can push the thought away, and get caught by surprise by death...

.. Or I can do my best to face it squarely, acknowledge that it is unavoidable, and try to deal with my fears of dying and of the unknown in as skillful a manner as possible.

It is my hope that in so doing, I will better learn how to embrace life more fully and to live completely and with a sense grace and appreciation for the time that I have remaining; however long that may be.

There are many ways of doing this, I am sure. Others have done similar if not identical practices to the one I will be embarking upon. I will do my best to stay on course, and to get the most out of it.

Honestly, this practice actually begun at the very moment that the idea germinated in my mind.. if not before, but the formal practice begins now.

This is the program for the first week:

July 08 - July 15

Meditation practice - 20 minutes per day.

  • Awareness ("Soft-Belly"*) Practice.

  • Journal Entry

* We tend to physically manifest our grief, hardness, pain, fear, and other afflictive emotions by way of a tightening of our belly. You can notice this yourself whenever you are facing a stressful situation; If you focus your attention on the physical sensations, or 'body pattern' when you are experiencing stress, fear, anger, pain, etc., you will notice a distinct tightening of the abdominal muscles. "Soft-Belly" Practice addresses this physical pattern of behavior by deliberately softening, and loosening the abdomen in response to such emotions. This allows us to 'let go' of the emotions rather than to 'hold on' to them. In this way, we are better prepared to respond to rather than react from this type of emotion and the stress that is brought on by them. For a better description of "Soft-Belly" Practice, see "A Year to Live" by Stephen Levine.

Well, folks.. Fasten your seatbelts, make sure the restraining bar is pulled all the way to the rear and in the 'locked' position, and please keep your hands and arms inside the car!! Here we go!!

1 comment:

Marcheline said...

I am with you in this, as in everything.

Love you.

- M